Every year adverts are placed in newspapers inviting Africans to apply for the Rhodes Scholarships. In Zimbabwe, they are awarded through a local and secretive Rhodes Scholarship Selection Committee whose membership contains a proportion of those who have themselves been Rhodes Scholars.
The first class of Rhodes Scholars was in 1903 and the chosen few enter Britain's Oxford University to study for at least two-and-a-half years.
Applicants are chosen on the basis of the criteria set down in the Will of Cecil Rhodes (1853-1902) who created the scholarships to bind together the elite of the former British colonies by bringing promising young men and women to Oxford University to "imbibe the English imperial ethos".
The United States and Germany were also included in the scholarships because the Kaiser had made studying English compulsory in German schools and also because of the German origins of the British monarchy.
Rhodes also said that his scholars should possess the following traits: "smugness, brutality, unctuous rectitude, and tact".
Scholastic achievement, character, leadership qualities, and physical vigour, usually exemplified by accomplishment in sports, are the winning attributes most often cited of the recipients. Approximately 92 scholars are selected worldwide each year.
The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a personal allowance (which currently stands at 9,582 [pounds sterling]) to cover necessary living expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England.
In the middle of the 1890s, Rhodes had a personal income of at least a million pounds a year which he spent on his goal in life (and after death) of establishing a "secret organisation for the extension of British rule throughout the world and the ultimate recovery of the United States of America as an integral part of the British Empire for making the Anglo-Saxon race one Empire", as quoted directly from his will.
In his book, John Cecil Rhodes: The Anatomy of an Empire, Christopher Marlowe, confirms that Rhodes' life ambition was "the furtherance of the British Empire, the bringing of the whole uncivilised world under its rule, the recovery of the United States of America, and the making of the Anglo-Saxon race into one Empire".
A look at the official documents of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust will not reveal all these issues although the Trust, which administers the scholarships, struggles to stay faithful to Rhodes's Will in choosing scholars. An African who is awarded the scholarship will then be told that Rhodes was such a caring philanthropist. But was he really?
Cecil John Rhodes was a student and a devoted fan of John Ruskin (1819-1900). Ruskin was a professor of art and philosophy at Oxford University in the 1870s. He often spoke to undergraduates at Christ Church College at Oxford as members of the privileged ruling class and that they were possessors of what they called a magnificent tradition of education, beauty; rule of law, freedom, decency, and self-discipline.
Rhodes began developing his imperialist philosophy after hearing a speech by John Ruskin which espoused an opinion, which by extension, furthered the teaching found in Plato's Republic.
Plato called for "a ruling class with a powerful army to keep it in power and a society completely subordinate to the monolithic authority of the rulers. …